It depresses me to see bigots using the cloak of religion because that’s nothing like the religion I learned as a child.
I was raised in a very religious family. We went to church or Sunday School, or both, every Sunday. We did not go to movies or any entertainment shows. At one point, my dad was the Northern California lay leader for the Methodist Church.
The religion I was taught was one of tolerance. I knew a number of different types of people growing up and some of them were friends.
When we lived in San Diego in 1946, right after a horrendous war in the Pacific which ended only when we dropped two atomic booms on the Japanese, my best friend in the neighborhood was a boy born of Japanese parents who lived on the other side of the block. He came to our house for dinner, I went to his. My parents never said a word against him.
My dad was transferred often as he rose in the ranks of the U. S. Forest Service – like IBM, they never promoted within a city – and our next stop was North Fork, a very small community in the foothills above Fresno. There was a large settlement of what we then called Indians, now Native Americans, and a boy from that settlement was a good friend. Again, my parents had no criticism.
That attitude formed my own and I’ve always treated people as people, not as part of groups.
My first knowing contact with gays came after I was hired by The Chronicle in April, 1963. I had always been a Methodist and so, I started going to Glide Memorial in the Tenderloin. I went to a youth group and after a couple of meetings, I told the group head that I had never known a gay. He laughed and told me most of those in the group were gay. I had already talked to many of them and enjoyed the conversations, so I decided that if I liked them not knowing they were gay, it would be silly not to now that I knew. I even helped one of them get a job with an advertising agency.
It got more difficult to remain at Glide because the church was split down the middle between older worshippers who wanted to hear the Gospel readings and younger ones who wanted the church to start administering to those in the Tenderloin area around them. The pastor, John Moore, gave up and moved to Davis where he worked at the university. Cecil Williams took over and started the work which has been such a help to those in the community.
As much as I admired Cecil, I much preferred the far more intellectual sermons of Moore, so I started looking around. One of the churches I looked at was Calvary Presbyterian, which was a very fortunate move because at a young people’s recreational get-together, I met the woman who would become my wife, Nancy McDaniel. Some months later, in February, 1967, we got married at Calvary Presbyterian and we’re still together.
Two years after our marriage, in February, 1969, we moved to Oakland. We seem to do everything in February. We have the same birthday, February 16, though she was of course born much later than me, so we celebrate two birthdays, our anniversary and Valentine’s Day in the shortest month of the year!
Our church going years ended abruptly in the ‘80s. The church we were going to, a Presbyterian one, was a progressive church, always involved in sending aid to people in other countries, usually in South America.
Then, the woman who had earlier been our son Scott’s favorite babysitter got married. Shelley and her mother were very involved in the church; Shelley was the wedding planner. So, she scheduled her wedding in the church on a Saturday and invited everybody to come.
But, her husband to be was a black man. Just five church members came, the Dickey family and an older couple who were as shocked as we were by the hypocrisy of the other church members. It was the last time we ever set foot in that church and we have never since belonged to another.
My parents meanwhile stayed with their Methodist Church in Fresno but they showed their willingness to accept others when the church hired a lesbian pastor. Many in the church dropped out but my parents welcomed her and even invited her to dinner at their home.
That is what I regard as a Christian attitude but I’m certainly not seeing that in other churches or church-goers. It was the antediluvian head of the Catholic Church in San Francisco who teamed with the Mormons to pass the odious Proposition 8, since repealed, as ministers in black churches supported that effort with their sermons.
I follow the teachings of Jesus as a good way to live, and I also live as my parents taught me. I find it’s much easier to go through life treating all people well. I only wish religious leaders would adopt that practice.
Meanwhile, the sports world has been brought into this struggle. Michael Sam was the first openly gay in the NFL though it requires considerable naiveté to think there aren’t others. Jason Collins came out in the NBA.
Domestic violence has become a very large issue, too, especially since that video of Ray Rice cold-cocking and then dragging his then-fiancée out of the elevator. This is just the tip of the iceberg.
And now, the hateful legislation in Indianapolis surfaces just as the NCAA holds its Final Four there.
NCAA head Mark Emmert has had some forceful words to say about that legislation and hard questions he wants answered. Good for him, but he needs to go further. The NCAA headquarters should be moved out of Indianapolis and Emmert should announce that no more big collegiate events will be held there.
The bigots don’t respond to reason; they just fall back on their religious beliefs. But when it costs them money….that’s the only argument they’ll listen to.
What do YOU think? Let me know!
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